The official logo of the Sand Lake Historical Society

ElRoy Face: Sand Lake's Baseball Claim to Fame

Historical Highlights

Sand Lake Historical Society

Bessie, Joe and ElRoy FaceElRoy Leon Face was born February 20, 1928, in Stephentown, NY, to Bessie and Joseph Face. Rich Castle became closely acquainted with the Face family when he went to live with them after his mother died in 1943 and has been a lifelong friend of ElRoy. Mr. and Mrs. Face ran the Faith Mills boarding house on Burden Lake Road (circa 1941-47). Mrs. Face did most of the cooking but from time to time would have help from ElRoy with the baking. Rich adds, “When it came to down-home cooking from scratch, there was no one better than Bessie Face. I think there were 12 rooms in the boarding house and it was always full. She would feed everyone at the dining room table. She not only fed the boarders but all us kids too.”

ElRoy's record: "Cross Your Heart (With Love)'ElRoy was quite a musician who played guitar and sang. His recorded single, “Cross Your Heart with Love,” played on many local juke boxes and Rich Castle recalls “playing it over and over many times.” [Ed. note: if you wish to search for a copy, the record is on the ROBBEE label, 45 rpm single R-111: Cross Your Heart (With Love) b/w Bells, Bells,and was issued in 1961.]

APCHS baseball team photo from 1946ElRoy attended Averill Park High School in 1945 and 1946. A highlight for Averill Park was in 1945. Peter Weaver, class of ’46, shared the following in his memories of Prof Stahlman: “I remember him especially as coach, yes coach of the school’s baseball team the year that they took it all. The pitcher was ElRoy Face, who struck out almost all opposing batters throughout the season. The fielding was strong whenever it was needed. Mr. Stahlman guided the team skillfully as it played the scheduled games, and then defeated Castleton at Hawkins Stadium, home of the Class A Albany Senators.” (Photo at right from the April 25, 1945, edition of the [Troy] Times Record.)

ElRoy was in the Army from 1946-48. After his tour in the service he worked as a carpenter and auto mechanic. He played on several farm teams. His career took off after a talent scout stopped by a ball field in Lebanon and watched 21 year-old Face work out against an East Greenbush Semi-Pro team. When the scout read in the paper the next day that ElRoy had 18 strikeouts in one game and 19 in another, the scout was interested and a contract was signed that day.

Baseball card for ElRoy FaceElRoy batted and threw right-handed. He always prided himself on his pickoff move. He recounts a game against the Cincinnati Reds when he was called in to pitch. There were two men on base, one at first and one at second, with no outs. He picked off the runner at second and then picked off the runner at first before he ever threw a pitch to the batter. Rich Castle comments, “Now that’s what I call getting out of a jam. Not done very often, if ever done at all.”

On December 1, 1952, ElRoy was drafted from the Dodgers by the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was the shortest pitcher at 5’8” and 155 pounds to take the mound for the Pirates and wore number 26. In 1959 in a five-part Times Record series on Face, George Yamin writes, “ElRoy bubbles with confidence — not irritating ego but an easy-going assurance that he is doing his job well and has proved his claim to fame the hard way, by winning games under difficult circumstances.” He further quotes Face, nicknamed “The Baron of the Bullpen”: “Sure I like to win, to set a record, to go down as the pitcher who has won the most games in a row; but first I want the wins for the team, to see the final score read in favor of the Pirates. These fellows have made it possible for me to be on such a streak. A man’s pitching streak like mine is as lucky as the ability of his fielders and hitters.”

Face appeared on Ed SullivanElRoy was famous for his fork ball, which he learned from Yankee reliever Joe Page. Reacting to an Internet statement that he learned it from a monk in the Himalayas, Face responded at that time, “I was never even out of the country except for Hawaii.” He appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show to demonstrate his famous fork ball pitch, which he used to confound opposing hitters saying, “It would come in hard and break away anyway it wanted to, sometimes in, sometimes out, mostly down. To throw the forkball, you place your fingers to the side of the seams, throw straight and snap the wrist. That causes the ball to create a forward spin and causes it to do a sudden drop just before the plate. To the batter it comes in like a fast ball but then does its thing.” It is said that the fork ball is known to cause damage to the shoulder and elbow and is not recommended for young kids unless it is thrown more slowly.

statistics for ElRoy Face from a Tops Baseball cardCareer Highlights and Awards

  • The Sporting News - National League Reliever of Year Award in 1962
  • Four times led National League in games finished 1958, 1960, 1961, 1962
  • Three times All Star Selection 1959, 1960, 1961
  • World Series Champion against the Yankees in 1960
  • Seventeen consecutive wins 1959 earning .947 the highest single season winning percentage in Major League history.
  • Enshrined in 1999 on the Wall of Great Achievement in the Ted Williams Museum in St. Petersburg, FL

He was on the ballot several times for the Baseball Hall of Fame but never got in. Face is quoted, “I was telling my wife the other day I could get into the Hall of Fame. In my will I would be cremated and spread my ashes over Cooperstown.” In a 1959 fun story, we hear that ElRoy always parked his car near Forbes Field in a gas station where he paid $1.00 a game. The owner told him he could park free until he lost a game. Needless to say he won 17 games and didn’t have to pay to park until September.

When asked what his most embarrassing moment was, ElRoy replied it was the first time he ever played with false teeth. When a fly ball was hit and he called off one of the other players, his teeth fell out in his glove. “That was pretty embarrassing.”

ElRoy's son Gene at age 2In 1961, Mr. & Mrs. Face moved to Pennsylvania to help run the ElRoy Face Motel that ElRoy had purchased. They returned to Stephentown in 1968 after the motel was sold. (Right: ElRoy's son Gene at age 2.)

ElRoy played with the Detroit Tigers, and then with the Montreal Expos before finishing his final game with them on August 15, 1969.

Rich Castle and ElRoy FaceAfter retiring, he returned to carpentry and moved to North Versailles, PA. He attends baseball camp for kids in the winter in Florida, run by Pirates teammate Bill Mazeroski. Enjoying golf, he regularly attends Pittsburgh area celebrity golf tournaments and graciously signs autographs. At the Yellow Creek Camp Grounds in Penn Run, PA there is a dam named the ElRoy Face Dam.

(Leftt: Lifelong friends Rich Castle and ElRoy Face.) On July 25, 1992, at the Sand Lake Kiwanis Summerfest, the ball field at Butler Park was named in honor of ElRoy Face. Town, State and Key Club resolutions and awards were presented to him, and Rensselaer County declared it ElRoy Face Day. In his remarks during the ceremonies, he commented that winning three games against the Yankees in the 1960 World Series was a true highlight but that “today’s festivities” meant the most to him. In his remarks, Prof. Stahlman recalled coaching the baseball team in 1945 and, with ElRoy’s pitching ability, winning the Hudson Valley League championship. Back then Prof was impressed with his baseball ability, his being highly competitive and with his determination to make good. He had a “strong young arm, and a good fast ball which he kept knee-high.”

monument marks ElRoy Face Field at Butler ParkIn the July 30, 1992, Record, John Scanlon noted “Little ElRoy” made it a point to stop at the Ale House in Troy to offer “a picture for a pitcher.” The order was hollered back, “That’s a small pitcher.” Johnny Bachinki made Thursdays “ElRoy Face Night” at the Ale House. “Face was a little guy as far as big league baseball pitchers go and, for that reason, in Troy at least his name became synonymous with a “small pitcher” of beer. Scanlon quoted Record columnist Mary Hilt: “Smiles radiated as major league baseball pitcher ElRoy Face signed bats, balls and explained his “fork” pitch to large crowds at the Sand Lake Kiwanis Club’s Summerfest.” In December 1993, the Kiwanis Club redesignated the athletic field at Butler Park ELROY FACE FIELD with an attractive engraved stone enumerating his pitching accomplishments. -- from Historical Highlights, Vol. 35, No. 2, Winter 2009. The team picture above originally appeared in the Times Record in 1946 and was reprinted in the Spring 2008 Historical Highlights. Thanks to Rich Castle, Billie Rivet, Ray Diamond and Mike Stahlman for contributing to the article.

The following is from sports writer Joe Cooley's "Cooley's Corner" column in the [Troy] Times Record, January 20, 1960:

EIRoy Face has more than a fork ball going for him as a claim to fame. He may well go down in history as the inventor of the two-way buainess card.

Conversation with Face at the recent St. Patrick's smoker was only a few santences old when it got around to his off-season carpentry. Roy was asked if he was serious about carpentry work or whether he just lent his name to a business
run by someone else.

The smiling and soft-spoken Face whipped out a business card. On one side it read, "ElRoy Face—Game Rooms and
Kitchens" and gave his address and phone number in Pittsburgh. On the other side of the card was a photo of the pony-sized pitcher with the percheron-sized heart, dressed in the uniform of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

As evidence that Roy believes in the old saw about a picture being worth a thousand words, his photo in baseball
livery shows him gripping with ball and ready to throw. Nothing else need be said. He looks all pitcher.

The question arose whether Face's baseball fame helped the carpentry business. Not generally, but there are exceptions,
replied Roy. He recalled the case of a woman who wanted him to install a kitchen and bathroom in her house—but only on condition that he autograph every wall. Speaking of his carpentry, Face said he does most of the work alone, hiring someone when he needs them...


The Advertiser 5/5/2022On May 2, 2022, the [Albany] Times-Union ran an article entitled "In 1959, he was almost perfect."link opens in a new window In the article, Face notes that what "irks him most" was not winning the 1960 World Series MVP: "That's the only time in baseball that a losing player got the MVP"!

That article was reprinted in the May 5, 2022, edition of The Advertiser. If you didn't get a copy, you can read it here!link opens in a new window

The official logo of the Sand Lake Historical Society  Contact us

Back to the Highlights Page

Created 5/2/2022; last revised May 6, 2022 -- asm. © 2002-2022 Sand Lake Historical Society; all rights reserved.